Signs and Wonders: Valentine’s Day, China, Turkey, and Bank-Robbing for Jesus

Happy Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day has evolved into a sentimental “Hallmark” holiday, but it’s important to remember its origins. Not much is reliably known about Valentine. In fact, the Valentine we celebrate today may in fact be a composite of several early Christians named Valentine. So much uncertainty exists about the identity of the true Valentine that the Catholic Church removed his name from its general liturgical calendar in 1969. However, the most prominent story about him (which is probably but not certainly true) is that he married Christian couples during a time when Christian weddings were banned. He was subsequently arrested, beaten, and beheaded when he refused to renounce his faith. He died on Feb. 14, 273. Since then, he has been associated with marriage and love, and so we celebrate him today.

One China Policy Affirmed. President Donald Trump said he would honor China’s One China policy, much to the dismay of Taiwanese leaders who thought they were making progress with the new president. Trump issued a statement after a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping. The statement said Trump and Xi “discussed numerous topics, and President Trump agreed, at the request of President Xi, to honor our One China policy.” Chinese news media, which is state-controlled, was quick to turn Trump’s waffling into a propaganda victory. It said Trump “stressed that he fully understood the great importance for the U.S. government to respect the One China policy” and that “the U.S. government adheres to the One China policy.”

A Campaign for Freedom. The Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC) has launched a formal campaign to bring attention to the imprisonment of Pastor Andrew Brunson. The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) has been working to free him. According to ACLJ’s website: “Pastor Andrew Brunson—a U.S. citizen from Black Mountain, North Carolina—was summoned to the local police station in Izmir, Turkey on the morning of October 7, 2016. He believed he would be receiving a long awaited permanent residence card. Pastor Brunson, who is a U.S. citizen, has been living in Turkey for 23 years, running a Christian church with the full knowledge of local authorities.” Instead, authorities arrested him as part of a crackdown on Christian workers there. A White House petition promoted by the EPC must reach 100,000 signatures by March 6, while key Congressional leaders have agreed to send an open letter to Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Brunson’s behalf.  For more on Brunson and the crackdown in Turkey, read WORLD’s recent story.

A Prosperity Anti-Gospel. A Lakeland, Fla., man pleaded guilty to bank fraud after he made $7 billion in wire transfers. Court documents said the victim was “a large, nationally renowned financial institution.” This is a huge amount of money and would be news based on the sheer size of the theft alone. What makes this story stranger still? The man was unemployed and apparently taught himself how to make the wire transfers through trial and error. (I’m not advocating crime. What he did is both illegal and violates the 7th Commandment, or the 8th, depending on how you count them. But I give the guy props for initiative and creativity. How do you teach yourself how to penetrate the security of a global financial institution and steal $7 billion?) Secondly, the man, John Michael Haskew, said he perpetuated the crime because Jesus wanted him to be wealthy. That takes the “prosperity gospel” to new depths. The bank apparently recovered its money, but Haskew still faces the possibility of five years in prison and a large fine.

Pleaded or Pled. By the way, in writing the item above I wondered whether to use the verb “pleaded” or “pled.” Lawyers and journalists are divided on the question. For those of you who think “words matter” and enjoy such debates, I commend to you this short article from the ABA Journal. The article, plus the links in it, will keep you entertained for a while. You can see that I chose “pleaded” because, well, I am a traditionalist.

Image courtesy of Vintage Holiday Crafts.

Warren Cole Smith is an investigative journalist and author as well as the Colson Center vice president for mission advancement.


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